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Stoner storms to Doha pole

CASEY Stoner of Australia and Valentino Rossi of Italy picked up the new season where they left 2008 by claiming the front row spots in Saturday qualifying for the Qatar Grand Prix in Doha.

Stoner and Rossi dueled for the championship last year, with Rossi barely winning his sixth MotoGP crown from the 2007 champion.

Stoner, who led testing in the offseason and practice on Friday, earned the pole in 1 minute, 55.286 seconds on his Ducati, nearly half a second ahead of Rossi.

"It was quite tense out there but we did a good job," said Stoner, bidding for a hat trick of Qatar titles. "We have done a good job on the first two days here."

Rossi clocked 1:55.759 on his Yamaha minutes before a heavy downpour hit the Losail Circuit.

"The situation has become quite interesting now," he said. "We had good rhythm today. My teammate also did well."

That was Spain's Jorge Lorenzo, who was third on his Yamaha.

Honda's Dani Pedrosa of Spain finished 14th while teammate Nicky Hayden crashed on the 16th lap. The American was attended to by paramedics as he lay on the gravel.

In 125cc qualifying, the front row was secured by Aprilia riders.

Julian Simon of Spain secured his first career pole with a time of 2:06.974. Bradley Smith of Britain was second in 2:07.107, and Andrea Iannone of Italy third.

After the rain passed and allowed qualifying for 250cc, Alvaro Bautista of Spain topped the field in 2:00.677, only a 10th of a second faster than Hiroshi Aoyama of Japan on a Honda.

Last year's 125cc world champion Mike Di Meglio of France was third and Hector Barbera of Spain fourth.


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